Thanksgiving Pop Quiz, dear readers, what is America’s Greatest Thanksgiving Tradition?
A.) Turkey, stuffing, et al.1)and the subsequent malaise from over-eating
B.) Football, football, football2)This can’t be the right answer, Iowa doesn’t play until Friday…Go Hawks!
C.) The Department Store-sponsored parade of over-sized, inflated objects.
D.) Awkward3)sometimes very. My instincts say Mr. Trump will only help with this political conversations with relatives you should know a little better before speaking to with such a harsh tone.
I mean these are all great, obviously. But the greatest? It does not seem to be listed above…
Thanksgiving Means “Alice’s Restaurant”
This is the 50 year anniversary of what might be America’s best holiday song4)after that awkward Adam Sandler one, obviously. There seems to be two groups of folks when it comes to “Alice’s Restaurant”: those who know and love the song dearly, and those who have yet to have the pleasure. We will need to cultivate this conversation for the latter group, as we do not want anyone to feel left out.
Most of the pieces I have read about Arlo Guthrie’s (Yes, he is the son of Woody) song spend some time discussing the song, then wait until the end to have folks give it a listen. I think this is a mistake. The following tidbits are much more fun if you are familiar with the song, so let’s start here, without context (this is where you trust me). The humor is a bit subtle, and if you would like to read along (helpful but not necessary) I recommend the Genius annotations. Plus, you’ll get to see a few of the locations/characters mentioned in the piece.
The Story Behind “Alice’s Restaurant”
A lot of people thought it was fiction and this is all real stuff. I had visited my friends during the Thanksgiving break, Ray and Alice, who lived in this abandoned church. They were teachers at a high school I went to just down the road in the little town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. And a friend of mine and I decided to help them clean up their church, and because I had gone to school there, I was familiar with all of these little back roads and nook-and-cranny places. And I knew a place that local people were using to get rid of their stuff.
It’s hard to pick out a favorite part of the song, but for starters, when they come across the sign below, for some reason, they just turn around and continue on, looking for the one dump in the area that is open on Thanksgiving? Pretty great.
Additionally, I challenge you to find a better description of a trial in song than that of “Alice’s Restaurant.”5)Not counting Dylan’s “Hurricane” of course As the Genius annotations highlight, it is just too much that Arlo is convicted by a blind judge with the only evidence being the twenty-seven, 8-by-10 “color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.”
There is another great excerpt from the NPR interview I want to share:
ELLIOTT: So do you remember the first time you actually played “Alice’s Restaurant” for an audience?
Mr. GUTHRIE: Well, the first time I started talking about it some of the events hadn’t taken place. I started it the night that Officer Obie called. He called in the daytime–in the morning–the–which would have been Friday after Thanksgiving, 1965. We went and we picked up the garbage. We went back and we were sitting around the kitchen in the church that night. And I had a guitar and we were making up funny little verses like, `You can hide from Obanhein at Alice’s Restaurant,’ stupid stuff. We were just, you know, just hanging out. And it wasn’t a song and there was no story. We were just having fun. But as the draft scenes unfolded in my real life, I began to include them in the song and it took about a year to put that together…
The only thing I really miss about doing it these days is that there’s maybe a few people in every crowd that haven’t heard it, but it’s nothing like having the few hundred or a few thousand people years and years ago–40 years ago–when nobody had heard it. Those moments can’t be repeated. And not only that, there were people singing this song together who politically had nothing in common and probably wouldn’t have talked to each other. But to see them all singing together reminded me of the spirit of what the country was all about, and I was thrilled. And, unfortunately, those days are gone for me. Not–that can’t be repeated. (bold added)
Completely agree with the bold statement above. Might not be such a bad idea, especially in political season, for all of us to take a moment on this Thanksgiving to think about what unites us all.
It is a Great American Tradition to Give “Alice’s Restaurant” a Listen Every Thanksgiving
As you saw in the quote above, the first time Arlo Guthrie played “Alice’s Restaurant” was in front of his friends in 1965. In 1966, at radio station WBAI in New York City, Mr. Guthrie played the track live on Bob Fass’ overnight radio show6)Source. Every since then, classic rock radio stations throughout the country adopted the tradition; the earliest example I could find was Chicago station WXRT which claims to have begun playing the song on Thanksgiving in 1973.
Unfortunately, our radio friends in in the Las Vegas area stopped playing “Alice’s Restaurant” years ago. But do not despair dear reader! Besides Youtube, SiriusXM channel 741, The Village, will play four different versions of the song throughout the Thanksgiving holiday.
But I am most excited to report that your local PBS station will be showing a live performance of “Alice’s Restaurant” with the original band to celebrate the 50th year anniversary! (8 p.m. local time in Las Vegas). For those of you just learning of “Alice’s Restaurant” for the first time, what a perfect time to begin the yearly tradition!
Below is a a little further reading if you are interested, plus a live performance of “Alice’s Restaurant” recorded for the 40 year anniversary.
All the best from us at Clear Counsel Law.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||and the subsequent malaise from over-eating|
|2.||↑||This can’t be the right answer, Iowa doesn’t play until Friday…Go Hawks!|
|3.||↑||sometimes very. My instincts say Mr. Trump will only help with this|
|4.||↑||after that awkward Adam Sandler one, obviously|
|5.||↑||Not counting Dylan’s “Hurricane” of course|